Brookline Music School at Northeastern's Blackman Theatre, May 11
On Sunday afternoon, wrapped in an inappropriate trenchcoat, ambulant but still convalescing from my 40th-birthday party the night before, I parked myself in the back row of Northeastern’s Blackman Theatre to watch 40 kids head full-tilt into the grand artistic fracture of the Beatles’ “White Album.”
Under the direction of John Purcell and Bret Silverman, the kids from Brookline Music School were performing some of the Beatles’ barmiest and most affecting tunes — and their versions, though not faultless, were certainly matchless. The musical settings were varied and ambitious. Seven acoustic guitars came out for a Glenn Branca mini-assault on “Blackbird”; “I Will” was jazzy a cappella; and suddenly, spotlit in the back row, there was a brilliantined smoothie at a keyboard, leering and snarling his way through the music-hall turns of “Honey Pie.”
We heard no “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” — Purcell and Silverman electing, no doubt, to preserve their young charges from that particular porno/militarist reverie. But a girl with a beautiful deep voice and a boy with brushed-down bangs did a version of Lennon’s “Julia” that had me dissolving in my seat. Negative stagecraft — just shy smiles, held hands, and a song of eternal grief suspended in heroin. “Half of what I say is meaningless/But I say it just to reach you. . . . ” I wept again during “Mother Nature’s Son”: one boy, rigid at the mike, producing an effect not unlike the “Introduction” to William Blake’s Songs of Innocence.
A husky, lavishly phrased vocal rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” took us close to American Idol territory, and I felt my inner Simon Cowell stirring and flexing his claws – but for Christ’s sake, you don’t give children bad reviews. “Birthday” blew up! Tear-streaked, revived, I staggered into the sunlight.
: Live Reviews
, The Beatles, William Blake, Simon Cowell, More